TSA Questions, Releases, Shoe-Bomb Suspect
If there was a reality
show about the TSA, it would play like a comedy. According to
writer Annie Jacobsen writing in Women's Wall Street (yes, the same
writer who covered the "terrorists" who turned out to be a band of
Syrian musicians), security screeners became suspicious of an Arab
man traveling under the name Gamal Badawi for several reasons, not
least of which the tape and rubber bands festooning his new
He claimed to be a student at Iowa State, which was odd because
he was 50 years old (maybe he's in Delta House, taking the "long
course?" Toga!). The TSA examined Badawi's shoes, which tested
positive for explosive residue using TSA's field test equipment
(which gives rapid results, but is prone to false positives).
The computer system for checking Badawi's finger prints was
down, and ultimately, they decided to let him catch his plane -- in
his stocking feet. They confiscated his shoes.
When the TSA handed over their evidence to the FBI, the FBI took
the shoes and the excellent pictures of the shoes the TSA agents
had taken. Then, they asked for a picture of the suspect.
"Oh. We didn't take a picture of him, just his shoes."
"Gamal Badawi" probably
didn't ring a bell with you, and it didn't with the TSA, but the
FBI figured it out. It's the name of the Yemeni Al-Qaeda leader who
organized the attack on the USS Cole, and then later escaped from
prison. (However, this Badawi does not physically resemble that
Badawi. And readers are cauutioned that names get recycled a lot in
the Arab world, for the most innocent of reasons).
The good news is that the FBI determined that there was no
explosive residue in the shoes -- the initial test may have been a
"Badawi" may have been a dry run probe, meant to expose security
procedures and techniques to enemy planners, before they begin
planning an actual attack. Of it could just have been a case of a
guy with weird ideas about decorating his shoes.
Next time, though, they'll take a picture of the guy they
question, and not just his Reeboks.
Hey, they promised.
And who can you trust, if you can't trust the TSA?